You Gotta Have Faith: Part II Of Idolator’s Christian-Rock Revue

Nov 8th, 2006 // 16 Comments

Yesterday, Idolator dipped its toes in the baptismal pool of Christian rock, a genre about which we know approximately zilch. So we asked Andrew Beaujon–author of the excellent Body Piercing Saved My Life: Inside the Phenomenon of Christian Rock–to help us out a bit, and he’s passed along a handful of annotated MP3s that cover the modern-day Christian-rock terrain:

Apologetix – The Real Sin Savior [MP3, link expired]
I thought I’d start Day Two with a good example of everything that’s wrong with Christian music. I mean, here you have a bunch of middle-aged men trying to connect with “the kids” by recasting an Eminem song as an evangelistic tool, complete with a couple of swipes at evolution (and, of course, Will Smith). It’s simply dreadful (though impressively produced) but still kind of fascinating.

D.C. Talk – Jesus Freak [MP3, link expired]
For most of their career, D.C. Talk proved only that Christians were just as capable of making mediocre R&B as anyone. Then came this song, which you can look at in a couple of ways. First, it shook Christian music out of its easy-listening comfort zone, combining rap and grunge in a way that was way out there for its mileu in 1995. Second, it takes a lesson from the best hip-hop (and early rock), making a supposedly socially undesirable upbringing (in this case, evangelical Christianity) a badge of honor. Third, it’s crazy catchy–just try to get it out of your head (you can watch the video here).

David Crowder Band – Hope Rising (Or Be Lifted) [MP3, link expired]
I’m not gonna waste anyone’s time trying to prove that Christian music can be “cool.” Most of it isn’t, and I figure the Idolator audience is probably well aware of Sufjan Stevens, Pedro the Lion, and all the Christians it’s okay to like. So I’m gonna close out with a typically all-over-the-place track from the group that made me understand worship music, the Christian music that doesn’t even try to be for non-Christians. For the full story, buy my damn book, but in brief: Crowder gives his audience a space to let themselves go, to lose themselves in adoration and praise. He could make mediocre music like most of his colleagues, but he chooses to push the limits of what’s acceptable in a very conservative culture instead, and I think he’s awesome.

Body Piercing Saved My Life [Official Site]
Earlier: You Gotta Have Faith: Idolator’s Christian-Rock Revue

  1. joe bananas

    no daniel amos, no credibility.

  2. Dan Gibson

    Do I win a prize for my David Crowder prediction?

    I love Beaujon’s book, by all means, but he did gloss over the “alternative” music that existed in the commercial dead zone in Christian music history between the Jesus People and the Tooth and Nail era. Some of the bands who were stuck in that time period, Daniel Amos and the 77′s included, had bad breaks or label drama keeping them from being the sort of marginally successful critical darling that made it out of the 120 Minutes rotation (say, the Call).

    It’s probably too much Christian Rock to imagine, but I think Joe Bananas and I should get a rebuttal post…”Christian Rock From When You Were Buying Mighty Lemon Drops Records And Thinking They Were Cool.”

  3. Walter

    While these songs are certainly a few examples of Christian rock, a vast amount of bands and music with this influence are out there every day who most people miss out on.

    For example, artists like MxPx (punk), Anberlin or Mae (punk/indie), Underoath (hardcore), Copeland and Daphne Loves Derby (indie), Skillet (hard rock), Relient K (pop-punk).

    I’ll admit I enjoy Jars of Clay and dc Talk quite a bit, but it bothers me that some of these other excellent artists are overlooked because they’re not being shilled out as much by their record labels.

  4. joe bananas

    i will assemble a .zip file for interested parties.

  5. Andrew_Beaujon

    Hey, man, I only got to pick three tracks!

  6. Hacky McHackerstein

    No Petra? I’m disappointed.

  7. Dan Gibson

    Then, you should blackmail the Idolator folk into making this a weekly feature, if only for Mr. Bananas and myself.

  8. thinsafetypin

    a short list of artists/bands FAR more worthy of inclusion than aplogetix (although i understand the point, does someone REALLY need to point out that most christian music misses the mark?):

    the 77s
    aaron sprinkle
    bill mallonee / vigilantes of love
    mike knott / l.s.u.
    robert deeble
    starflyer 59
    the violet burning

    and if you’re including hip-hop in the “christian rock” category, then certainly everyone connected to the deepspace5 collective (especially the fantastic mars ill and listener) should be mentioned.

  9. JDR

    Crowder makes some good epics as well for fans of that Queen/Tommy Shaw/All over the place style.

  10. radosh

    Apologetix is certainly terrible, but I find it hard to see them as what’s wrong with CCM. After all, they bill themselves as “a parody band.” Like Weird Al only Christian instead of funny. What’s far more wrong with CCM are the artists (Carman being the extreme) that really do try to be “hip” Christian alternatives to secular bands, and do it with minimal talent and authenticity.

    Anyway, thanks to Andrew for these posts. Joe Bananas: How do I get me one of them .zip files?

  11. joe bananas

    yeah, we only nitpick because…we’re batshit crazy.

  12. KurticusMaximus

    MxPx isn’t really a Christian band. They only claimed that early on, probably to get more exposure or something. Nowadays they generally avoid the label.

    If you guys are doing a series on Christian music, and you don’t talk about the Tooth & Nail record label (along with their sister label, Solid State), you’re nuts.

    Most of the bands Walter mentions are (or were) on Tooth & Nail. Bands like Underoath, Norma Jean, and Reliant K are legitimate forces in the punk “scene” these days, and they’re also vocally Christian.

    They also represent the “new” Christian music, where it’s pretty much just a bunch of Christians making otherwise normal music. The lyrics may be occasionally spiritual, but they’re almost never overtly Christian.

  13. Crane

    Personally, I love David Eugene Edwards, of 16 Horsepower and Wovenhand, but I’ve read that he’s excluded from a lot of the conversation on Christian rock because he’s too fire-and-brimstone for the rockers, and too rock for the old-school Christian community he comes from. I’m not very up on the “scene” what with being a Jew and all, but I can’t help but remark about how odd it is — his faith is so much more demanding, condemning, and controvertial than say, Joseph Arthur’s, but his audience is almost entirely secular. What a strange position to be in. Perhaps my ignorance has led me to say something ridiculous, but I wanted to mention it. I’ll certainly look for the book; it’s a fascinating subject.

  14. KurticusMaximus

    so1omon:

    I agree, there’s certainly an issue about whether or not a band composed of Christians makes “Christian music,” if their lyrics aren’t Christian.

    Then again, the guys in Underoath held prayer groups during the last Warped Tour. I would imagine a willingness to act overtly Christian in a notoriously anti-religious environment (recognizing that the contemporary “punk scene” isn’t nearly as anti-religious as it used to be) gets them at least some Christian cred.

    In any event, those bands still represent a development within that culture, whether for the better or for the worse.

  15. so1omon

    @KurticusMaximus

    Andrew’s book spends quite a bit of time talking about Tooth and Nail. There’s a whole chapter dedicated to Brandon Ebel.

    I have a fairly serious problem with the “new” Christian music movement. If it isn’t overtly Christian, then why attach that label to it? Just because members of a band identify as Christians doesn’t make it “Christian” music. Was “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” a Christian movie? How about “Urban Legends: Final Cut”? Both were written by Scott Derrickson, an outspoken Christian.

    While I would concede that there are large differences between traditional sacred art versus secular art, I would argue that art is art. At this point, attaching the “Christian” label to something as mundane as pop music seems to be a blasphemy of convenience. It’s a marketing tool.

    I fully support artists who are Christians that aren’t necessarily interested in making Christian art. But I do have a problem with those artists cashing in on the Christian market by signing with “Christian” labels. Shit or get off the pot folks.

    I’m done ranting about my pet peeves now.

  16. Jupiter8

    Hey if you play any of these backwards, they actually sound good!

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